In an outlying neighborhood of Quito, Ecuador, a brightly-covered mini-van sets up shop for a day in order to teach about the world of citizen journalism. Inside the van, called “Mi Voz Móvil” (My Mobile Voice), there are long benches and even a desk, just perfect enough to accomodate a budding journalist. Laptops with mobile cards are also used in conjunction with these workshops so that participants can upload their content directly to the web. This project is sponsored by the newspaper Ultimas Noticias [es], (Latest News) which is part of the larger El Comercio [es] media company. Here is a short video and explanation by Ultimas Noticias Editor, Leonel Bejarano.
As the site says:
Todos los días te encuentras con hechos que se pueden convertir en noticias. Sin embargo, no siempre hay un periodista cerca. Si tú presenciaste algún evento que consideres puede ser de interés para Últimas Noticias, tanto en su edición impresa como digital, no dejes de escribir tu historia o capturar una imagen (vídeo o fotografía). Últimas Noticias podría publicarla y hasta designarla y premiarla como noticia/imagen de la semana o del mes…. Envía los textos a través de tu celular (SMS), las fotos o videos (MMS), o por correo electrónico.
Ahora tú haces el periódico
Every day you come across events that can become news. However, there is not always a reporter nearby. If you witnesses an event that you think would be interesting to Ultimas Noticias, in the printed or digital editions, write your story or capture an image (video or photo). Ultimas Noticias may publish it and may even designate it as the article/image of the week or the month…Send the text through your cell phone (SMS), or via photos or videos (MMS) or by e-mail.
Now you can make the newspaper.
What may set this apart from other similar projects is that the news and content created by the citizen journalists called Vecinos Reporteros (Neighborhood Reporters), is that their by-lines are side by side with the paid professional staff. In fact, they also work closely with the staff at Ultimas Noticias to fact check, develop the story a little more and standard editing. The Vecinos Reporteros are given the satisfaction of seeing their byline on an article. They can also compete for a weekly and monthly cash prize, but that it is not a real motivation for most, says Editor Leonel Bejarano, as some even never bother to claim the prize.
Ultimas Noticias receives contributions via email, but also accepts text via written letter or at different drop boxes around the city. In an interview with Editor Leonel Bejarano, he told me about one of the most memorable stories provided the Neighborhood Reporters.
A military recruit named Diego Ortiz, who was performing his mandatory military service had been severely beaten and mistreated. The military wanted to keep the story under wraps and prohibited the press from interviewing the soldier and only allowed relatives into the hospital room. A relative was angered by the condition of his cousin that he decided to submit a story to Ultimas Noticias with exclusive stories and photos. The Neigborhood Reporter Omar Patricio Ramos Silva wrote this first story [es] and continued with updates:
Ingresa el 16 de Noviembre con un diagnóstico de politraumatismos debido según ellos a una caída, entre ellos una fractura de la pelvis y con derrames internos, cabe señalar que en el transcurso de estos días los Padres de Diego han tenido que pasar muchas penurias ya que son personas analfabetas y de escasos recursos económicos.Debido a ésto y dadas las condiciones en las que se encuentra Diego han tratado de mil maneras de arreglar con la familia para que el caso no salga a la luz, incluso el mismo agresor Cabo Castillo estuvo en la mencionada casa de salud con la intención de amedrentar a Diego, al encontrase con una persona que lo supo poner en su lugar lo único que supo decir es que venia a pedirle disculpas a Diego y al encontrarse con los Padres no tuvo más remedio que retirarse y se logró que se le prohíba la entrada.
He was admitted on November 16 and diagnosed with multiple traumas due to, according to them, a fall, including a fracture of the pelvis with internal bleeding. During the course of the past few days, Diego's parents had to go through a lot because they are illiterate and with few economic resources. Due to this and due to the condition that Diego has been in, they had tried to fix things with the family so that the case was not made public. Even the same person that caused the injury, Cabo Castillo was present in the hospital trying to threaten Diego, and that when he found a person that could put him in his place, and he said that he just came to ask for Diego's forgiveness and when he saw his parents that all he could do was leave and that he was no longer allowed to enter.
For these stories, Ramos Silva received the prize of Golden Rooster, which is given to the article/photo of the week. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this story is that Ramos Silva is a member of El Comercio's Finance Department, who wanted to contibute to the newspaper and continues to write other stories for the paper. This is what the newspaper hopes to continue, find individuals that may not be journalists by training, but who have the desire to share something that is meaningful to them or or their community.
Sigan adelante en su misión por mostrar al mundo estas iniciativas de participación ciudadana. En Ecuador el tema ha empezado a moverse fuerte como vemos.